Ordeal

Written by Jorn Lier Horst

Review written by Maureen Carlyle


Ordeal
Sandstone Press
RRP: £8.99
Released: March 17 2016
PBK

Being already a great fan of Scandinavian noir, I tucked into this with relish.  This is Horst's fifth novel, so I have some catching up to do.  I was immediately struck by one great difference between his style and that of, for instance, Jo Nesbo; In fact, I don't think this book could be described as “noir” at all.  Yes, there are murders and some violence, but they are not extreme.  The characters are not extreme either – all of them people you could imagine meeting in everyday life.

Jorn Lier Horst was a policeman, eventually becoming head investigator in Larvik, Norway, where he has set his series featuring William Wisting, who is himself Chief Inspector in Larvik CID. So there is an air of authenticity that striates this gripping narrative

Wisting is a 55-year-old widower with a grown-up son and daughter.  His daughter,  Line, to whom he is particularly close, has recently moved in to a house almost next door to his.  She is an investigative journalist, but is currently on maternity leave.  She is no longer in a relationship with the father, and is secretly very nervous about becoming a single mother, although she would never admit this to her father.

One day when she is out in the town, she meets a former school-friend, Sophie.  They have not been in contact for many years.  She too is a single mother, and has inherited an imposing house in Larvik from her grandfather, Frank Mandt.  Sophie has no pleasant memories of him, as he was a well-known local criminal.  Her intention is to expunge everything that was his from the house.  The furniture has already gone, but in the basement is a large safe which is too heavy to move.  Sophie enlists the aid of Line.

Wisting is in the meantime struggling with a very difficult case involving the disappearance of a local taxi driver, Jens Hummel, together with his taxi.  Wisting is receiving a large amount of flak from his superiors because of his lack of progress.  He is very relieved when eventually the missing taxi [but not its driver] is found on an isolated farm.

In the meantime, the two girls employ a locksmith to open the safe.  It contains old recorded cassettes, sets of ring binders, a very large amount of cash, and a gun.  Line gives the gun to her father to hand to the police, without revealing where it came from.

The neighbouring police in Kristiansand have someone in custody for a murder which took place on New Year's Eve.  The trial is soon to take place, and it seems an open-and-shut case, as two witnesses saw the killing, when a young woman was shot in the town centre.  The police have the bullets, but not the gun.  The assumed culprit, however, refuses to answer any questions about the murder.  When forensics have examined the gun, Wisting is astonished to discover that it is the one that was used in the New Year's Eve murder.  When he also learns that the farm on which the taxi was found was owned by Frank Mandt he begins to wonder whether the Kristiansand police have the right man, despite all the evidence to the contrary

From this point there are some fiendish twists and turns in the plot.  The Kristiansand investigator, Ryttingen, refuses point blank to co-operate with Wisting, as he wants his successful day in court.  Sofie and Line fall into grave danger as Line has not told her father the full story.  The run-up to the final resolution is absolutely gripping.

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